SPARK Program

Check back for information about the 2021 SPARK Program 

Students Participating as Ambassadors for Research in Kentucky (SPARK) is a new dynamic collaboration between the Center for Health Equity Transformation (CHET) and the Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) focused on recruitment and research training of diverse undergraduate students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds and communities across the UK campus. 

Students are introduced to community-engaged research focused on health disparities/health equity and receive extensive mentorship. Students identify a research topic, program leaders assist in identifying mentors, and students work with their mentors to develop a project. Students conduct this project in their home communities over the summer, receiving funds to support their research. After implementing the project, students meet with their mentors, undertake data analysis and write-up, and present and publish their research in professional settings.

2019 SPARK Pilot

In May of 2019, CHET launched a pilot of the SPARK program. Three students received intense training on developing research questions, research conduct, IRB proposals and budget development, and health equity. With active mentorship from CHET and community and faculty mentors, the SPARKlers developed the following research projects:

  • Sidney Bibbs - An Examination of the Motivators and Barriers to Blood Donation among African-Americans in Lexington, Kentucky
  • Hannah Bowling - Identifying Facilitators and Barriers of Physical Activity in a Rural Trail Town
  • Simone Bibbs - The Role and Impact of Recovery Programs and Community Services on the Recovery and Reintegration of Survivors of Sex Trafficking

May 2020 SPARK Program

In May of 2020, CHET launched a modified version of the SPARK Program due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Selected students were matched with faculty sponsors and engaged in data analysis projects. CHET provided remote training on research ethics, health equity, formulating research questions, literature reviews, project planning and management, and quantitative data and analysis. Students are currently engaged with CHET and faculty sponsors in addressing research questions using provided datasets and participating in professional development activities. Their efforts will culminate in publications and research presentations at the 2021 Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences Annual Meeting. 


                Alexis James

                Major: Human Health Sciences

               Career Interest: Physician                    


              Roberto Obregon Garcia     

              Major: Psychology

              Career Interest: Clinical or Counseling Psychology                                                 

           Hope Makumbi

           Major: Neuroscience

           Career Interest: Physician

You can read more about the program here:

For information about the 2020 SPARK Program, click here